Community Lead Story Local News West Edition

Ridley-Thomas to co-chair state task force on homelessness

LOS ANGELES — Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced the formation of a task force to fight the state’s homelessness crisis and appointed Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg as co-chairs.

“No Californian can say homelessness is someone else’s problem — it affects us all,” Newsom said. 

“Homelessness is a matter of statewide concern, but solutions will come from the local level.”

Ridley-Thomas said he was looking forward to working with the task force.

“It is time for all levels of government to intensify our efforts, and take urgent and swift action to combat homelessness,” he said. “Los Angeles County is the epicenter of these crises, accounting for about 40 percent of the state’s homeless population. 

“In 2017, we declared a state of emergency and won voter approval of Measure H, creating an unprecedented funding stream for addressing homelessness. But given the dire shortage of affordable housing, the situation remains tenuous,” Ridley-Thomas added.

Newsom’s May budget revision includes $1 billion to combat homelessness by increasing emergency aid for local jurisdictions, making money directly available to cities and counties and funding permanent supportive housing and other innovative approaches.

“Mayors, county supervisors and city councils around the state are working hard to reduce homelessness and its underlying causes,” the governor said. “We’ll be watching these local and regional solutions closely, to lend a hand and help them scale.”

Newsom’s announcement was made at a news conference in Oakland just days after Bay Area counties released point-in-time homeless counts showing double digit increases. San Francisco’s homeless population increased by 17 percent over two years, while Alameda County, where Oakland is located, showed a 43 percent increase since 2017.

The results of Los Angeles County’s point-in-time homeless count — to be released May 31 — are expected to show a significant increase in the homeless population.

Recognizing the role that mental illness plays in homelessness, Newsom named Dr. Tom Insel to the Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force. Insel is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who served for more than a decade as the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Ridley-Thomas, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other officials toured a downtown Oakland hotel converted to the Henry Robinson Multi-Service Center transitional housing facility.

The task force is expected to meet in cities and counties around the state to observe programs firsthand, get input from local residents and guide the creation of joint regional plans to address homelessness. Meeting dates and more members are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Wave Wire Services